Recapping Apple's “It's Show Time” Keynote

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple’s major “It’s show time” event was held today at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino; here’s our summary of the highlights.

Having made a number of hardware announcements last week via press releases, it came as no surprise that Apple's focus for this event was new and upcoming services rather than new or updated hardware. There's a new TV and movie streaming service featuring original content commissioned by Apple; an updated TV app that better integrates third-party services; a news and magazines subscription service; a gaming subscription service; and a new Apple credit card.

Apple Video Initiatives

Invitations for today's event bore the tagline “It’s show time”, so it was no surprise that the headline announcements were the launches of Apple's new streaming video initiatives:a TV and movie streaming service featuring original content commissioned by Apple; and the integration of third-party subscription services directly into an upgraded TV app.

Apple TV+: Apple’s New Streaming TV and Movie Service

Apple has reportedly invested upwards of $1 billion in commissioning and purchasing dozens of “family friendly” TV shows and movies over the past 18 months. Today, Apple gave us the first official news of some of what's coming to its new service.

Rather surprisingly, there was only a brief scissor reel featuring actual clips from a handful of upcoming shows, with Apple giving far more time to a video of several directors, writers, and actors talking about their work with Apple. Amongst those featured were M. Night …, J.J. Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steven Spielberg. This was followed by a number of the artists involved in the upcoming shows appearing live on stage:

  • Steven Spielberg introduced his new sci-fi show, a remake of Amazing Stories.
  • Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell were on stage for “The Morning Show,” a series about the high-stakes world of morning news shows.
  • Actor Jason Momoa is to star in “See” - reportedly Apple's most expensive commission to date - which is set in a world where the earth was devastated by a virus that left only a few million survivors, all of whom were left blind by the virus.
  • Kumail Nanjiani spoke about his new show “Little America,” an anthology series inspired by the true stories of immigrants in the USA.
  • Big Bird was on stage to promote “Helpsters,” a new pre-school show coming from Sesame Workshop which uses the ideas behind coding to solve problems.
  • Director J.J. Abrams and composer Sara Bareilles talked about their upcoming series, “Little Voice,” the story of a woman who ultimately has to find her voice and herself through music. Bareilles also performed the theme song from the show live on stage.

Later in the event, Oprah came on stage and said that she has “joined forces with Apple because they’re the company that has reimagined how we communicate. I joined in order to serve this moment because the Apple platform allows me to do what I do in a whole new way.”

Oprah has two documentaries in the works for Apple: “Toxic Labor” on sexual harassment in the workplace and a second untitled piece on mental health. She also took the opportunity to announce a Book Club where Apple Stores stream a conversation with an author live across all Apple devices.

Apple closed off its presentation of the new Apple TV+ service with the bold claim that it “will be 'the destination for the highest quality originals' that will challenge and thrill, define and redefine our expectations”; with a focus on quality over quantity, and that the service will aim to create some of “the best stories ever told.”

Apple TV+ will launch this fall as an ad-free subscription service in 100+ countries; it will provide access to all of Apple’s original content via the TV app on Apple devices and on selected Smart TVs. All content will be exclusive to the service, and available online and for download. Pricing and full details on availability will be announced later this year.

We have reached out to Apple for information on the availability of audio description for its original content and will update this post with anything that we learn.

Upgraded TV App

The second facet to Apple’s streaming TV plans is an upgraded version of its TV app.

Previously, although the TV app presented users with aggregated content from third-party apps such as CBS; DirecTV Now; and Hulu, it would only play iTunes Movies and TV Shows. If you wanted to view content from any of the third-party services, you were redirected back to the provider's standalone app.

Today, we learned that the TV app is getting a major upgrade that offers better integration of third-party services and, as a result, a much improved user experience.

The upgraded TV app will continue to integrate bundle providers like Spectrum and PlayStation Vue, and streaming apps like Hulu. Complementing these existing options, however, will be a new feature Apple calls Channels, which are third-party video services that you can sign up for and watch content from without needing to leave the TV app. The channels available include CBS All Access, Starz, Showtime, HBO, Nickelodeon, Mubi, The History Channel Vault, and Comedy Central Now.

MacStories explains how channels differ from how integrated services worked previously in the TV app:

Channels work differently from how TV app-integrated services currently operate. Today, for example, if you find an HBO show in the TV app that you want to watch, you have to download the HBO app and sign up for HBO Now inside that app, then you can launch HBO content from the TV app and it will play inside HBO's own app – the TV app's only benefits are initiating playback and tracking your shows via the Up Next queue. When Channels launch, things will be much simpler for Channels-partnering services: when you find that HBO content you want to watch, you'll be able to sign up for HBO Now quickly and easily from inside the TV app and the video will play right from TV. There's no need to download or use a separate app at all.

Other highlights of the upgraded TV app include:

  • The updated TV app will be available on iOS and tvOS in May.
  • The Mac will gain a TV app for the first time this fall.
  • Apple is launching the Apple TV app on Samsung TVs this spring, followed by Sony, LG, and Vizio some time later in the year. A TV app will also be coming to Roku and Amazon products.
  • The upgraded TV app will use curation and machine learning to recommend new shows and movies to you.

Ahead of today's event, it had been anticipated that Apple would offer discounts to users who bundle multiple third-party video services together. For instance, users could subscribe to a ‘package’ of Starz and Showtime through the TV app at a cheaper rate than subscribing to each individually outside of the app. However, no mention was made of bundle pricing during the presentation. Instead, Apple said that “for some of us, the big bundle is more than we need. So, we designed a new TV experience. Only pay for what you want.” This doesn't completely rule out the possibility that Apple may announce bundle pricing between now and the release of the upgraded TV app in May, but what's far more likely is that Apple has struggled to negotiate discounts from third-parties.

Apple News+

As widely anticipated, today's event saw the announcement of a paid subscription component to Apple News. Amongst the highlights of this new service are:

  • Apple News+ will at launch offer access to 300 magazines across multiple categories. including fashion, news, lifestyle, health, travel, and food. Amongst the publications available are Vogue, Billboard, Popular Science, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune.
  • The service includes digital subscriptions from publications like The Skimm, Vulture, Grub Street, The Cut, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
  • Apple News+ is in the standard News app, where it will appear as a tab if you have a subscription.
  • Recommendations of titles and articles will be made upon your past reading. This uses your device's machine learning capabilities, so is performed on the device itself and not remotely by Apple.
  • Apple does not record what you read, and will not allow advertisers to track your reading either.

Apple News+ is available from today in the US and Canada, with availability in the UK and Australia coming later this year. The first month is free, after which it will cost $9.99 per month. The subscription can be shared via Family Sharing at no additional cost.

When listening to the presentation, it appeared that content would use the Apple News format; which although it can have some VoiceOver issues, is a significant improvement on the scanned pages which have often been how magazines have made content available digitally in the past.

However, 6 Colors has subsequently indicated that the availability of Magazines in Apple News+ may not be the ‘immediate accessibility win’ that initially appeared to be the case:

Demoing Apple News+ on an iPhone rather than an iPad seems to be a careful choice to make it clear that this isn’t a digital replica like so many “magazine on iPad” efforts have been. The problem is, it seems like only about half of the magazines are in Apple News format rather than available as PDFs.

Apple News format articles are better in so many ways, including accessibility and readability on smaller devices. The PDF replicas are… less inspiring. Presumably Apple won’t bother recommending articles out of PDF replicas elsewhere in the News app, which suggests that Apple is very much trying to make it worth all the partners’ whiles to switch to the more flexible Apple News format.

However, with established and popular services such as NFB-NEWSLINE offering access to newspapers and magazines for anyone who is blind, low-vision, or otherwise print-disabled, it's likely that Apple News+ will have limited interest and value to blind and low vision readers anyway.

Apple Arcade: Gaming Becomes a Subscription Service

Apple also announced Apple Arcade, a new games subscription service that provides access to more than 100 new and exclusive games from companies such as Disney, Sega, Lego, Cartoon Network, and Konami. Rather than pay up front for each game, your subscription will allow you to download and play any Apple Arcade game on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.

Games will be available offline, so you can play anywhere. There will be no in-app purchases and no ads.

Apple Arcade will be available this fall in over 150 countries. No pricing was given, but Apple did state that the service would support Family Sharing.

Much like Apple News+, it is hard to imagine that Apple Arcade will be of significant interest to blind users - as the games available are almost all likely to be completely inaccessible with VoiceOver.

Considering Apple's stated commitment to accessibility, it would have been welcome to have seen VoiceOver support be a requirement for games to be included in Apple Arcade. However, knowing the types of games which are most popular with iOS gamers - and thus the games which will draw users to this new service - hoping for such a requirement was always likely to be unrealistic.

Apple Card: Transforming the Credit Card

The final new initiative from Apple is its branded credit card, with Apple saying that it's “learned a lot about credit cards, but there are some things that could be so much better, like simplifying applications, eliminating fees, lowering interest rates, offering a clear rewards program, and security and privacy.”

Apple has partnered with Goldman Sachs and MasterCard on a credit card that it says focuses on simplicity, transparency, and privacy. Apple Card offers a number of features that Apple says will transform the credit card experience, including:

  • Sign up on iPhone and get your card in just minutes rather than having to wait for a physical card.
  • You can use Apple Card worldwide anywhere Apple Pay is accepted.
  • The iOS Wallet app has all new capabilities so you can see what you spent, where you spent it, and when your payment is due.
  • You can get help with your Apple Card right in Messages if you need to review transactions, update your address, and more.
  • Apple Card uses machine learning and Apple Maps so you will always know specific details about each of your purchases.
  • Every time you use Apple Pay with your iPhone or Apple Watch with the Apple Card, you get 2% back in “Daily Cash” (or 3% “Daily Cash” when making purchases from Apple).
  • Apple Card will clearly show you how much interest you’re going to pay if you choose to pay your balance over time.
  • Apple Card shows a range of payment options and calculates interest in real time.
  • There are flexible payment option so you can pay weekly or biweekly instead of monthly to cut down on costs.
  • Apple Card has no fees. No late fees, no international fees, no annual fees, and no over-limit fees.
  • Apple Card features a new level of privacy and security. A per-device card number is created and stored safely in the Secure Element, a special security chip used by Apple Pay.
  • All purchases are authenticated by Face ID or Touch ID, and Apple has no idea what you bought, where you bought it, or how much you paid. No data is shared with third-party companies for marketing.
  • For places that don’t accept Apple Pay, Apple has created a physical Apple Card credit card you can use. The card is titanium and your name is laser etched on it. There’s no card number on it, no signature, no CVV. Apple says that this physical card is more secure than other credit cards.
  • When you make a purchase using your physical card, you get 1% “Daily Cash” back.

Apple Card will be available in the US this summer.

Software Updates

Last but not least, Apple announced the public releases of iOS 12.2, macOS Mojave 10.14.4, tvOS 12.2, and updated software for HomePod.

What Was Missing

Following on from last week's announcements of new iPad Air and iPad mini models, iMac refresh, and the launch of the second generation AirPods, it came as no surprise that today's event had no hardware news. It remains to be seen if or when Apple's long overdue AirPower wireless charging mat will be released; or if the iPod Touch will be refreshed.

Also notable by its absence, was any mention of Apple offering bundle options for its new services. However, as pricing was not confirmed for a number of these services, it is possible that Apple will announce bundle pricing once all of the services are available.

Which of today's announcements most excited or disappointed you? Do you plan to sign up for any of the subscription services? Let us know in the comments below!

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Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Firstly, I wonder how the channels will work over here in the UK as all of the listed providers are US only. Our offerings are a little slim by comparison with now tv and... Well, that's it I think, so I wonder at the usefulness of such a new product. Secondly, my immediate interest is in the accessibility of programs served up through the new Apple TV app. Will there be a standard that is expected of audio description from people like HBO? Apples commitment to TV series audio description has been rather lacking in the past so it will be interesting to see if this is resolved.

Finally, I've just purchased a Samsung TV and, despite my low expectations of its included screen reader, some apps are accessible such as Netflix and curiosity stream. I'm hoping that the new Apple TV app will have been designed well enough too so that I don't have to purchase any extra hardware and can avoid living life in the dongle lane.

These are more questions than opinions but, it's kinda what went through my mind as I watched the keynote.

Submitted by Will on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

for me, i just use the TV app to play content from my installed UK-BASED apps like bbc IPLAYER, and the ITV hub so oliver, you can have them on the device and have the queue show you what to watch next. the other thing that interests me is this credit card? apple say it can be used internationally, but it only releasing in the US this summer?

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

That's true and it will be convenient to have things playing within the app, though it's not much of a problem when it opens out. I think my point is, are there going to be any other subscription channels that we have access to in the uk that will play nice with the app? It seems a very US centric solution for the moment.

Yes, and I noticed the world wide thing with the credit card. Presumably you would have to have a US address to apply for it. I'd assume that they'll bring it to the rest of the world at some point when they've hammered out deals with other banks. I am a sucker though, I want a titanium card!

Submitted by Will on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

oliver, would have thought it would have already been hammered out with other banks, for a world-wide launch? very strange. also, i agree, when the apps open up the content just starts playing so i doubt we in the UK will see much difference. Time, i guess will tell. same with News Plus, i don't want be using that really even if comes over here, but i am still watching developments.

Submitted by Michael Feir on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Club AppleVis Member

I'm quite impressed with the News app now that it's finally available to Canadians. The Apple News Plus service offers a wide selection of magazines. These include Time,The Atlantic and a personal Canadian favourite of mine, the Walrus. Some magazines like Retro Gamer are so visual that they're pretty useless. However, the majority of magazines are quite accessible. Articles are easy to read through and the rotor lets you move easily between headings, images and links. For people interested in longer in-depth articles, this is pretty attractive. Even if onlyfour of the hundreds of offerings interested you, you'll have gotten your money's worth.

I've been quoted in a few magazines like Wired, Popular Mechanics and Time On Technology thanks to my long-standing interest in games accessible to blind people. it's nice to actually be able to read current issues of these magazines independently. I have yet to investigate how well a newspaper like the Toronto Star works in the app but can access those through the CELA digital library in any case. By the way, that library lets me access 150 magazines currently. Apple gives me far more than that already and I presume more publications will join up over time. I've already found around ten magazines which will interest me greatly. And of course, there are all the free articles so nicely organised, accessible and curated. I'm keen to get a sense of what the artificial intelligence does to learn about my personal interests.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Much will depend on what magazines are offered that I can't already get via either Kindle or RNIB NTNM. Combining those two resources I already get the Cricketer, Rugby World, the Spectator, the Economist, the Times Educational and Higher Educational supplements, The Week, and the London Review of Books and London Theatre Listings. Plus I get the newspapers I want already - Telegraph, Sunday times, International New York Times, London Evening Standard, the Sun. It's hard to imagine what else I would want to read on top of all that, apart from Private Eye, which I have always wanted and which I've never seen made available electronically. Unlike a lot of modern readers I prefer the whole newspaper or magazine rather than a selection of articles from all over the place. I guess I will wait and see what magazines are offered, pricing and all that, but I doubt I will be too interested in this feature, or any other features announced today in fact.

Submitted by Callum on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Personally, given the increasing cost of the latest devices from Apple, which are only going to keep increasing, I honestly can't justify paying them all these subscriptions as well. People already have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV just to name a few in the UK. These are services that have been around for years, are available on almost any device and, most importantly, people know how to use them. They've probably been using them so long that the recommendations they see are finally relevant to them etc, so why would people bother switching? Especially to a service that is only available only on Apple devices and selected smart TVs?

My opinion is that Apple are too late with the video streaming service. As an example, Although Apple Music is popular, Spotify has always been the most popular of the two because it was around long before Apple Music and is available on more devices. I believe it will be the same with Apple TV Plus and Netflix.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

First a apple card with Goldman Sachs. If I recall Goldman Sachs has some issues with people stilling millions of accounts from their bank and I believe they got in trouble with the US for bad financial practices. Second Pay news and magazines I am not paying for something I can get for free. I did not see New York Times, Washington Post, Wallstreet Journal in the list. I do not read magazines never did and not planning. Third shows. I am not going to pay for a remade of a TV show from the 70s which was OK, and a TV show about blind world that probably will not be accessible. I wonder if apple will have %100 accessibility for those who are blind in their world. TV about a world where blinds are only left does not seem interested to me. So nothing new cameout and I am not planning to give apple money. If I want cable I just purchase it via whatever provider I have in Chicago.

Submitted by Brennen on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I have to admit I’m a little disappointed by the streaming service iTunes has so many shows and movies that I was hoping that they would put those into the service instead of just all original content although I suppose that they would have to get all of the permissions from the different companies which would maybe take a long time but if they really wanted to they could do it

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In reply to by Brennen

Apple tend to charge to much for it and not to many will pay for it. For example the news app they want the news providers to pay %50 for apple and the other %50 divided between the providers.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Dare I say, if Apple doesn't have audio description for all of their original content, they will upset a lot of blind fans and have seriously cast doubt on their ongoing commitment to accessibility. It would be one thing if AD for original content was some kind of breakthrough, but since Netflix has made this its standard procedure for years now, Apple would not look good if they failed to at least live up to this standard. Which would be compounded by the fact that one of their tent-post shows is going to center on the blinding of the entire human race. All of that said, I'll be very surprised if audio description is not available for Apple's original content, but time will tell.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

First off, this was a very well done recap, even better than the several articles I read on Apple Insider to learn about what got announced. I was out during the event so didn't watch it.

I'm not interested in Apple news plus since I don't use the news app much anyway and get most of the news I'm interested in from links posted on Twitter and articles online. Apple news and things like newsline are things I forget are there.

As for Apple TV Plus, I'm not too interested in the stuff they've announced so far, but maybe I'll check it out. I don't doubt that the shows will be audio described though, since everything they've done so far--things like Planet of the Apps, Carpool Karaoke, and documentaries on Apple Music--all are. Interesting that they're bringing the TV app to other devices. That might influence what I get if I decide to get a TV for my new place.

The Apple Arcade thing was what surprised me most, although obviously that's a service I won't be able to use. I wish someone could figure out a way to make gaming more blind friendly, but that's a hard medium to do that with. It's not like movies and TV, where they can just put in an audio description track and it's accessible for us. I feel like gaming is one of the last forms of entertainment where we're stuck in our own little blindy bubble.

The Apple card seems interesting, though I wonder how it will work if you get the physical card and it doesn't have a number or a CVV on it. Apple Pay is awesome, but I still find that most places don't have it. Would you be able to use the Apple card to do things like ordering a pizza over the phone?

Submitted by Hayden on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In reply to by Brian Giles

I was wondering the same thing concerning the card, actually. Beyond ordering over the phone, there are still online purchases to consider--and I haven't heard anything concerning how Apple will facilitate those with its card.

Submitted by Ann Marie B on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hi. Thanks for the very well written and organized recap. I am not interested in the Apple news plus app as I get news from various local and national apps here in the U.S. Also I am skeptical about the apple card... a titanium physical card? I don't know about that. Ex. some retailers may not support the apple card. it was mentioned previously, how would one go about placing orders over the phone with the apple card? I may check out the apple TV. I was disappointed in the Apple Arcade due to the majority of the games being inaccessible for voice over users.

Submitted by jcdjmac (not verified) on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I'm totally looking forward to using the Apple Card when it launches. It's about time apple has made it's own card to work with Apple Pay, as the service itself has been around for 5 years, and since it's secure, transactions and purchases are made much easier. plus the fact you get cash back when you make a purchase is totally cool.

Submitted by Usman on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I just have one question. What about those of us who already have the visa rewards card through Barclays? Will this card be phased out now that the apple card has been announced?

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In reply to by Usman

Perhaps not. If they try card provider may take them to cort. Also I heard the interest is high if you miss payments. I suppose some will get it and have more debts to get into.

Submitted by jcdjmac (not verified) on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

In reply to by Usman

Hello their,
the card you mentioned will not be effected, so once the Apple Card goes Live, you could continue to use your existing card.

Submitted by alex wallis on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

to those who asked how telephone and online ordering with the card would work, they said the card number would be recorded in the wallet app along with other card information, so presumably you could open wallet and give the card information that way, though given how bad and sluggish VoiceOver is on a phone call I would be tempted to copy the card details out of wallet and save them on the computer and read them over the phone from a file like I do with my other card details.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Monzo app in the UK has all card details in the app which is a great help too. I'd assume there will be some security feature that means that the card needs to be near the phone when making physical transactions and over the phone will probably require some authorisation in the wallet app. Just a guess based on what other new cards are doing now.